By Ed Dove
LEICESTER City begin their Premier League title defence at Hull City on Saturday knowing they will have their work cut out to upstage the big clubs again following a summer of big spending.
Claudio Ranieri, mastermind of last season’s unlikely title triumph, is acutely aware of how much harder things will be this time around and will be keen to make a winning start.
He will be wary, though, of regarding the trip to Hull as a formality even if the promoted team are without a permanent manager, after Steve Bruce quit last month, and with only 13 fit senior players.
“We’ll defend very strongly our trophy but I think there are big teams now who last season made mistakes,” Ranieri told Sky Sports. “Now they have to win because they are used to winning and have spent a lot of money.”
Leicester’s would-be successors will all be aware of the importance of a strong start.
Manchester United’s Jose Mourinho learned just how quickly things can deteriorate after a troubled start to last season with the Chelsea side he had steered to the title.
He will want to begin his reign with victory at Bournemouth on Sunday when he may hand a second United debut to world record £89m signing Paul Pogba.
Pep Guardiola, who has marquee signing John Stones available after his £47.5m move from Everton, starts his Manchester City career at home on Saturday against Sunderland and their new manager David Moyes, a replacement for recently appointed England boss Sam Allardyce.
It could take time for Guardiola to forge his own team but he knows City must hit the ground running after failing to live up to their billing as favourites last season.
Arsenal and Liverpool meet at the Emirates Stadium in an early test of their title credentials on Sunday, with Arsene Wenger describing the new campaign as a “world championship of managers”.
“Everybody will, of course, be highly focused on doing well and it will be interesting,” he said ahead of the meeting with Juergen Klopp. “Not everybody can win the championship and this year, more than ever, it will be tougher for everybody.”
In other matches involving teams among the main title contenders, Mauricio Pochettino takes his Tottenham Hotspur side to Everton on Saturday, while Antonio Conte makes his debut in charge of Chelsea at home to West Ham United on Monday.